|Publication number||US8083439 B2|
|Application number||US 12/470,113|
|Publication date||Dec 27, 2011|
|Filing date||May 21, 2009|
|Priority date||May 30, 2003|
|Also published as||US7537416, US8616806, US20040240947, US20090226263, US20110315062|
|Publication number||12470113, 470113, US 8083439 B2, US 8083439B2, US-B2-8083439, US8083439 B2, US8083439B2|
|Inventors||Stephen B. Wetch|
|Original Assignee||Union Oil Company Of California|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (18), Referenced by (2), Classifications (12), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/448,812, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,537,416, “RISER SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR USE WITH AN OFFSHORE PLATFORM,” filed May 30, 2003, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.
This invention relates generally to floating offshore structures, such as platforms, from which offshore operations, e.g., petroleum drilling and production, can be carried out and the riser support systems for use with these offshore structures. The invention is particularly concerned with riser support systems designed to support surface wellheads and associated equipment, usually on platforms floating in relatively deep water.
As hydrocarbon reserves decline, the search for oil and gas has moved offshore into increasingly deeper waters where economic considerations and physical limitations frequently militate against the use of platforms supported on the ocean or sea floor. Thus, most offshore drilling and production in deep water is conducted from floating platforms that support the drill rig and associated drilling and production equipment. The three types of floating platforms that see the most use in deepwater are tension leg platforms (TLPs), spars and semisubmersible platforms.
Tension leg platforms (TLPs) are moored to the ocean floor using semirigid or axially stiff (not axially flexible), substantially vertical tethers or tendons (usually a series of interconnected members). The TLP platform is comprised of a deck and hull similar in configuration and construction to the semisubmersible platform. The hull provides excess buoyancy to support the deck and to tension the tethers and production risers. The deck supports drilling and production operations. The use of axially stiff tethers tensioned by the excess buoyancy of the hull to moor the platform tends to substantially eliminate heave, roll and pitch motions, thereby permitting the use of surface wellheads and all the benefits that accompany their use.
Another type of floating structure used in offshore drilling and production operations is a spar. This type of structure is typically an elongated, vertically disposed, cylindrical hull that is buoyant at the top and ballasted at its base. The hull is anchored to the sea floor by flexible taut or catenary mooring lines. Although the upper portion of a spar's hull is buoyant, it is normally not ballastable. Substantially all the ballast is located in the lower portion of the hull and causes the spar to have a very deep draft, which tends to reduce heave, pitch and roll motions.
Semisubmersible floating platforms typically consist of a flotation hull usually comprising four or more large diameter vertical columns supported on two or more horizontal pontoons. The columns extend upward from the pontoons and support a platform deck. The flotation hull, when deballasted, allows the platform to be floated to the drill site where the hull is ballasted with seawater to submerge it such that the deck remains above the water surface. The platform is held in position by mooring lines anchored to the sea floor. Partially submerging the hull beneath the water surface reduces the effect of environmental forces, such as wind and waves, and large lateral column spacing results in small pitch and roll motions. Thus, the work deck of a semisubmersible is relatively stable. Although the semisubmersible platform is stable for most drilling operations, it usually exhibits a relatively large heave response to the environment because the pontoons are at a depth that exposes the structure to the rotational energy of large waves.
In order to use surface wells in floating offshore platforms or hulls that are subject to pitch roll and heave motions, such as the semisubmersible and spar platforms described above, the surface wellheads typically must be supported by top tensioning systems and/or individually buoyant risers. Typically, hydraulic top tensioning systems are also required to support risers in TLPs. Top tensioning systems, such as hydraulic cylinder assemblies, add extra weight to the hull supporting the platform, are mechanically complex and add significantly to costs. Individually buoyant risers are relatively complex and expensive subsystems, and the individual buoyancy cans used in these subsystems require significant lateral support and have a large number of moving parts that require close fits and/or a large number of wear or centralizing mechanisms. Thus, the use of individual buoyancy cans results in a large well bay size and increased overall hull size.
It is clear from the above discussion that conventional riser systems needed to support surface wellheads in floating offshore platforms used in deepwater exploration and production have significant disadvantages. Thus, there exists a need for other riser support systems that are mechanically simple and relatively inexpensive for use in these offshore systems.
In accordance with the invention, it has now been found that rigid and substantially vertical risers and their associated surface wellhead equipment can be effectively and economically supported offshore above the surface of a body of water by a floating apparatus comprising a buoyant and ballastable support structure in which the risers are internally attached at a location below the surface of the body of water and below the center of buoyancy of the support structure. Preferably, each riser is attached to the inside of a tube that is part of the buoyant and ballastable support structure by a latching mechanism or other attachment means.
In one embodiment, the apparatus of the invention is used to support risers and their wellheads in a single hull platform in which the buoyant and ballastable riser support structure is the hull and the risers are attached to the inside bottom of the hull below the center of buoyancy of the hull. In another embodiment, the apparatus of the invention sits in an internal passageway of the hull such that the axial movement of the risers and their support structure is independent of the axial movement of the hull (non-heaved constrained) but moves with the hull (constrained) in pitch and roll. The risers and the riser support structure float inside the hull of the offshore platform and are not anchored to the floor of the body of water by either vertical tethers or flexible moorings.
The apparatus of the invention has significant advantages over conventional methods of supporting risers and their surface wellheads in offshore platforms. The use of a single, relatively simple fabricated structure that provides primary load support to the risers by displacement of water eliminates the need for the use of complex top tensioning mechanisms and individual riser buoyancy cans, thereby reducing costs and complexity of the offshore platform. Furthermore, since the risers are attached to their support structure below its center of buoyancy, the resulting structure is inherently stable and loads into adjoining structures are thereby reduced.
All identical reference numerals in the figures of the drawings refer to the same or similar elements or features.
The platform 10 comprises deck 12 supported by a floating modular structure 14 that is comprised of upper hull structure 16 and lower hull structure 18. The bottom of upper hull 16 is attached to and fixedly mated with the top of lower hull 18 by hull securing devices 20. These securing devices may be any type of mechanical connector conventionally used to join large tubulars either above or below water. Examples of such connectors include self-locking pipe connectors, marine riser connectors, and hydraulic type connectors. In lieu of or in addition to mechanical connectors, the two hulls can be fixedly joined by permanent welds between the bottom of upper hull 16 and the top of lower hull 18 or by net compression supplied by buoyancy control between the two adjoining hulls as will be described in more detail hereinafter. The modular structure 14 floats in body of water 21 which, for example, may be an ocean, sea, bay or lake.
Lower hull 18 is comprised of four vertical lower hull structural columns 22, four lower hull bottom pontoons 24 and, in some cases, four lower hull top pontoons 25. The hull also contains a lower hull central column or well bay structure 26 that is connected to columns 22 by lower hull diagonal tubulars and lower hull gusset plates, not shown in the drawings, which are similar to those used in upper hull 16 and described hereinafter.
Lower hull 18 is anchored to the floor 32 of body of water 21 by mooring lines 34 and piles or other anchoring devices 36 (
The upper hull 16 (
The combination of upper hull 16 stacked on top of and fixedly attached to lower hull 18 forms floating modular structure 14, which in turn supports deck 12. In the offshore platform shown in
As shown in
Each hull 16 and 18 is designed to be both buoyant and ballastable and therefore contains ballast compartments or tanks, not shown in the drawings. These ballast compartments are usually located in lower hull bottom pontoons 24, in upper hull pontoons 42 if present, in lower hull columns 22 and in upper hull columns 40, thereby giving each hull adjustable ballast capability. Obviously, each hull contains equipment associated with the ballast compartments, such as manifolds, valves and piping, which allow ballast, typically seawater, to be transferred in or out of the ballast compartments to adjust the position of each hull in the water 21.
Since it is the buoyancy of modular structure 14 that supports deck 12 and its payload of associated equipment, the size of the columns and pontoons will typically depend on the size of the payload. Normally, the width and length of the lower hull columns 22 and the upper hull columns 40 range between about 20 and 60 feet, while the height of the columns usually is between about 70 and 120 feet. The width of lower hull bottom pontoons 24, lower hull top pontoons 25, and upper hull pontoons 42 is typically the same as the width of columns 22 and 40 while the length varies from about 50 to about 230 feet. The pitch and roll motions of modular structure 14 can be decreased by increasing the length of the lower hull bottom pontoons 24 and upper hull pontoons 42 and thereby increasing the distance between the lower hull columns 22 and upper hull columns 40, respectively. Typically, the height of lower hull bottom pontoons 24 is greater than that of lower hull top pontoons 25 and upper hull pontoons 42 and ranges between about 20 and 60 feet. However, it should be understood that it may not be necessary to utilize pontoons 25 and/or 42 in the modular structure 14 as is discussed in more detail below, and they may be eliminated altogether.
The upper and lower hulls 16 and 18 are usually individually ballasted so that modular structure 14 floats in body of water 21 such that the bottom of deck 12 is between about 20 and 60 feet above the water surface 56 and the modular structure 14 has a draft between about 100 and 300 feet, usually greater than about 150 feet and less than about 250 feet. Although a draft of this depth reduces the heave response of platform 10 to a level below that of conventional single hull semisubmersible structures and makes surface well completions feasible, an economical support system for the risers and their associated surface wellheads is still desired. One embodiment of such a support system is depicted in
Riser support system 58 comprises buoyancy can 60, which contains a plurality of tubes 64, and a riser 62 inside each tube. Risers are tubular conduits associated with offshore structures that usually extend from above the ocean surface to the sea floor. They provide pressure integrity and structural continuity between the sea floor and the offshore structure, serve to guide drill strings into well bores in the sea floor, and provide a housing for the tubing that transports produced hydrocarbons from the wells in the sea floor to the water surface. The tubes 64, which are open at the top and bottom and run from the bottom to the top of the can, are structurally fixed to and an integral part of the buoyancy can 60, which has solid sides, a top and a bottom. The tubes provide a barrier between the inside of the buoyancy can and the water that enters the bottom of a tube and occupies the annular space between the inside of a tube 64 and the outside of a riser 62.
As shown in
The buoyancy can 60 is situated inside the passageway formed by the upper and lower well bays 44 and 26 in such a manner that its axial movement is independent of the axial movement of the combined upper and lower hulls 16 and 18. Bearing pads 74 (
The use of buoyancy can 60 reduces or eliminates the riser loads on the deck 12 and minimizes deck weight by supporting wellheads 72 and their associated equipment. The upward buoyancy of the buoyancy can counteracts the downward riser force. The buoyancy can contains ballast compartments or tanks, not shown in the drawings, that give the can adjustable ballast capability. The buoyancy can also contains equipment associated with the ballast compartments, such as manifolds, valves and piping, which allow ballast, typically seawater, to be transferred in or out of the ballast compartments to adjust the position of the buoyancy can inside the upper and lower well bays 44 and 26.
Although buoyancy can 60, upper well bay 44 and upper hull 16 are all depicted in
Each riser 62 is installed within a separate tube 64 of the buoyancy can 60. Each tube extends the full height of the buoyancy can and, as can be seen in FIGS. 3 and 6A-6D, comprises two sections of different diameters. The upper tube section 78 is about 2 to 15 times the length of lower tube section 80, which forms the bottom of tube 64. The inside diameter of upper tube section 78 typically ranges from about 20 to about 50 inches, while that of lower tube section is usually between about 2 and 4 inches less than that of the upper section. The interface between the two diameter sections forms a horizontal ledge or shoulder 82 (
The latching mechanism 66 interfaces with shoulder 82 in tube 64 through a support ring assembly 83 (
Upper centralizer 70 (FIGS. 3 and 6B-6D) is a split ring and is used to center riser 62 in the top portion of tube 64. It engages the riser and provides upper centralization but no axial support to the riser (i.e., no permanent mechanical top tensioning), which is axially supported in the tube by the latching mechanism 66 at a location below the surface 56 of body of water 21 and below the center of buoyancy of the buoyancy can 60. There is typically no point of attachment of the centralizer and riser to the tube above the water surface. The center of buoyancy is the center of gravity of the fluid displaced by the buoyancy can or other riser support structure. By attaching the risers to the tubes below the center of buoyancy of the buoyancy can or other riser support structure instead of above the surface of the water, the riser support system becomes an inherently stable structure with no overturning moment. This, in turn, reduces the load on bearing pads 74 and the upper and lower hulls 16 and 18, thereby enabling the pads to last longer and simplifying the structure of the hulls as well as the buoyancy can.
Each riser 62 has a load shoulder 86 located above the upper centralizer 70. This load shoulder is shown in
The buoyancy required for floating lower hull 18 with buoyancy can 60 is provided by lower hull columns 22, lower hull bottom pontoons 24, lower hull top pontoons 25 and the buoyancy can. If the added buoyancy that pontoons 25 provide is not needed, they can be eliminated and replaced with a conventional open truss structure. Such an open structure has the advantage of being transparent to the horizontal movement of water 21 and therefore tends to minimize drag response induced by wave energy and water current.
Once the upper and lower hulls arrive at the desired offshore location, deployment of platform 10 is begun, as shown in
After the mooring lines have been attached to lower hull 18 and overtensioned, the hull is ballasted down further, usually by pumping water 21 into ballast compartments located in lower hull columns 22 and lower hull bottom pontoons 24, until the lower hull is completely submerged in body of water 21 as shown in
Upper hull 16, which carries deck 12, is floated over and aligned with completely submerged lower hull 18 so that upper and lower well bays 44 and 26 are aligned as shown in
Once the upper hull 16 and lower hull 18 are mated, they are normally attached to each other and held together with mechanical locking devices 20. It is possible, however, to weld the contact surfaces together from the inside of the hulls after they have been mated and thereby dispense with permanent locking devices. Alternatively, the hulls can be held together by buoyancy control to keep them in net compression at all times. If after the two hulls are mated there is slack in the mooring lines, it is taken up, usually by the use of winches mounted on upper hull 16, and the lower hull 18 is slightly deballasted to raise the combined hulls enough to induce the desired tension forces in the mooring lines. After the upper and lower hulls 16 and 18 and upper and lower well bays 44 and 26 have been mated, buoyancy can 60 is deballasted so that it rises up into the upper well bay 44, usually to a position above the water surface 56, and no longer extends below the bottom of lower hull 18. By allowing the buoyancy can to pierce the water surface, it becomes less sensitive to changes in load and buoyancy.
Normally, the upper hull is supported entirely by the bottom hull, which is held floating in place by mooring lines 34. The draft of the combined hulls is sufficiently deep to significantly reduce heave, pitch and roll motions while the mooring lines control lateral motion. It is normally not necessary to use other types of anchoring devices, such as substantially vertical and axially stiff tendons on the lower hull. Moreover, the upper hull is typically devoid of mooring lines and tendons. There is no need to directly anchor the upper hull to the floor of the body of water. Its attachment to the lower hull is sufficient to provide it with the required stability.
The resultant platform 10 with its buoyancy can 60 situated inside upper and lower well bays 44 and 26 is now ready for the installation of the risers 62 and surface wellheads 72 shown in
When the latching mechanism 66 and its support ring assembly 83 land on shoulder 82 formed at the interface between upper tube section 78 with lower tube section 80 as shown in
Next, as shown in
The use of the buoyancy can 60 and its tubes 64 to axially support risers 62 in the well bay of offshore platform 10 has several advantages over conventional riser support systems. First, the primary load support is provided through the displacement of water by a single, simply shaped buoyancy can as opposed to expensive and complex riser top tensioning systems or individual riser buoyancy cans. Second, the ability of the risers-buoyancy can structure to move axially in the platform well bay independently of the axial movement of the hull reduces the need for significant heave constrainment of the hull, thereby significantly reducing the size requirements of its moorings and related components.
The embodiment of the riser support system of the invention shown in
For example, another embodiment of the invention is illustrated in
In the embodiment of the apparatus of the invention depicted in
In the embodiments of the invention shown in
Although this invention has been described by reference to several embodiments and to the figures in the drawing, it is evident that many alterations, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace within the invention all such alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||405/224.2, 441/133, 405/211, 166/350|
|International Classification||E21B19/00, B63B35/44, E21B17/01, B63B22/24|
|Cooperative Classification||E21B19/004, B63B35/4413|
|European Classification||B63B35/44B, E21B19/00A2|